Making the world a better place is worthy goal, but purpose also requires focus, innovation, and — above all — teamwork.
“Every company was founded with a core purpose, but many have neglected their origins on the journey to scale revenue growth or have struggled to evolve it,” Accenture’s Bill Theofilou stated in Forbes last month. “A brand must solve a problem or meet a need. How well it does that, and how well it creates loyalty, affinity, and connections with its customers determines the winners from the losers.”
Purpose-driven organizations are keenly aware of their own resources and use them for positive change in the world, SAP Chief Marketing Officer Alicia Tillman stated in an SAP video last month (see below). Tillman has three tips for optimizing purpose within your enterprise:
1. Treat Purpose as a Strategy
“[Purpose] can’t be something that we think about here or there,” Tillman said. “Consumers today are making decisions at the point of sale based on which companies are giving back and doing good in the world versus those that are not.”
Google, for example, has entwined is mission and values with its purpose. This includes innovating for the benefit of both customers and the internet giant itself, Anurag Wadehra, global director of Industry Marketing for Google Cloud, stated at NRF 2019. Case in point: reducing the carbon footprint of Google Cloud’s datacenters.
“We applied AI and machine learning to the problem, and came up with innovative ways to finetune the cooling of the datacenters, based on weather patterns,” Wadehra said. “That resulted in savings on energy for cooling by 40 percent.”
Google Cloud also has a program geared toward renewable energy sources, according to Wadehra, “so that the overall carbon footprint of our customer moving to Google Cloud is actually zero.”
2. Use Disruptive Technology — Properly
“There are so many technologies in the marketplace today that are disrupting the way we run our businesses,” Tillman said. “It’s up to us, both as individuals and as stewards of our companies, to know the technologies — and know the roles that they can serve within our companies — to help us continue to grow in the future.”
That can mean determining your organization’s differentiators, focusing on them, and partnering with others who can handle the rest, according to John Douglas, CTO of Tory Burch. For instance, SAP takes care of the American fashion label’s backend so Tory Burch can concentrate on its brand, product, and customers.
“We’ve probably spent more on technology to help our customers last year than we’ve done in the lifetime of the company,” Douglas said this year at NRF. “We started to focus on the customer and the analytics — understanding the brand behaviors and how our products are doing, how they’re selling, and the increasingly different customer behaviors across brick-and-mortar and online.”
3. Engage in Change Management
“Never underestimate change management… We have to sell these technologies to our executive teams [and] our board members,” Tillman said. “They have to see possibilities, the opportunities that are created with new technology, and then we have to manage the change appropriately.”
It helps to have tech-savvy executives, board members, and workers, according to Tory Burch’s Douglas. After a recent change management pitch, Douglas received advice instead of resistance. “Change management is often more difficult than the technology itself,” he said, adding a note of gratitude for the lack of internal headwinds. “We decided that retail operations weren’t necessarily our key differentiator, but we needed to do better… [and] we were able to do it.”
And Solve Your Customer’s Problem
Focus on solving your customer’s problem, then partner with others to handle everything else. How you resolve each shopper’s problem will likely determine whether you win or lose.
“We do not think it will be digital, we don’t think it will be physical, we think it will be: ‘I have this problem, and I want to solve it. Is the easiest way to solve it online? Have somebody deliver it? Pick it up? Or do I want to shop the old-fashioned way?’” Rodney McMullen, chairman of the board and CEO of The Kroger Co., said at NRF 2019. “Retail will solve problems for customers.
“It will be purpose-driven,” he continued. “It’s something that’s so much bigger than any of us can do individually.”